An inside view of Aboriginals in Prisons

In prisons in Queensland, West Australia and the Northern Territory, Aboriginals make up between 75 to 80 percent of the population of the people confined.

While incarcerated their health usually improves because the are well looked after get regular meals and cannot "walkabout" (leave) while on a course of medication.

This enables relatively good compliance and stabilization of any medical problem.

Their health on arrival is often poor due to a failure to have the same priorities for their health as others might have.

While confined they eat well regularly and gain weight.

They seem to get along better with each other then other inmates in the same situation.

They are often incarcerated with other family and community members.

A term of incarceration is seen as a right of passage in some aboriginal communities.

Some prisoners find the pattern of life, i.e. regular meals, shelter, medication no financial demands less stressful than life in their communities or being homeless.

On their release they often express a desire to return.


On arrival they often have been binge drinking and or using marijuana the common drug of choice.

The cost of this drug is usually 3 to 4 times more than in any main stream non Aboriginal community which leaves little money for food.

Most indigenous people do not use any hard drugs.

The young ones often threaten their families with physical violence to get money for drugs, steal the money or threaten suicide to get what they want.

Petrol sniffing is a major concern in some communities with the result having the petrol sniffer suffer so much brain damage that they do not know their families, friends or country let alone have any idea of what laws are or the consequence of breaking them.

This damage is not reversible and some start as young as 10 or 12 years old.

These kids are led into this by brain damaged, from petrol sniffing, men in there twenties.

These young offenders of the law are often sent to government sponsored care of some description without proper intervention and they inevitably return to their communities, mixing with the same group and returning to old habits.

Aboriginal sentencing is far shorter then for any others committing the same crime.

Many of them have been in several times ranging from one month to 6 months per each visit.

It would seem that the court looks at this group of people as having a diminished responsibility when looking at sentencing.

As an example a violent murder of a partner could be 5 to 7 years verses 10 years to life for other cultures.

This does create some animosity with other non-aboriginal people in prison.

On release many of them only make it a few days or weeks before they return because they have broken the conditions of their bail.

Also because of over crowding the prisons have become human warehouses with little rehabilitation as result of the loss of space and money for the necessary rehabilitation programs.

Visitors to prisoners are far fewer as most come from remote areas and travel is expensive.

This causes more worry to the community male prisoners, as they are afraid their partner will go to another.

In times past they were encouraged to paint to help fill in their time.

Today because of overcrowding this luxury seems lost.

We have been lucky over time to obtain some very nice masterpieces completed by great artists, while incarcerated.

This is due to having a clear head, large amounts of time and because of no interference (hum bug) from family, or addictive substances.

These are located in our gallery.